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China to Unveil Environmental Tax on Major Polluters Next Month

After three decades of dirty growth, China will unveil an ambitious, five-year cleanup plan. But skeptics question if the new proposals will have teeth

Jonathan Watts,

Feb 7, 2011
Pollution in Beijing

China is to impose an environmental tax on heavy polluters under an ambitious cleanup strategy being finalized in Beijing, according to experts familiar with the program.

The tax will be included alongside the world's most ambitious renewable energy scheme and fresh efforts to fight smog when the government unveils the biggest, greenest five-year plan in China's modern history next month.

After three decades of filthy growth, the measures are designed to pull the country from the environmental mire and make it a leader in the low-carbon economy. But skeptics question whether the policy will have any more success than previous failed efforts to overcome the nexus of corrupt officials and rule-dodging factory bosses.

As Obama Extols Wisc. Cleantech, Fears of Governor's Anti-Wind Policies Grow

Pres. Obama unwittingly visits a wind plant that could go under if Gov. Walker's policy rollback occurs. Solar, however, is being left to flourish for now

By Maria Gallucci

Feb 7, 2011

President Obama's recent visit to a Wisconsin town to trumpet its cleantech success has inadvertently shone a spotlight on the state's new governor and his plans to reverse a law that advocates say is needed for the wind industry to stay afloat.

Manitowoc, about 80 miles north of Milwaukee and on Lake Michigan, is home to two major renewables firms: , which makes high-efficiency lighting and solar products, and , a manufacturer of towers for utility-scale wind turbines.

Obama toured the one-time shipbuilding city of about 34,000 people following his Jan. 25 as an example of success in his efforts to foster investments in clean energy projects.

Natural Gas Drilling Fells 1,000 Trees in W. Va. Forest, Scientists Say

In one of the first studies to observe the full course of drilling, scientists found that a well and a pipeline killed trees but did not affect groundwater

By Nicholas Kusnetz,

Feb 6, 2011

A by the U.S. Forest Service offers one of the most detailed accounts yet of how natural gas drilling can affect a forest — in this case the , deep in the mountains of West Virginia.

The report traces the construction and drilling of a single well and an accompanying pipeline on a sliver of the 4,700-acre forest that federal scientists have been studying for nearly 80 years. It found that the project felled or killed about 1,000 trees, damaged roads, eroded the land and — perhaps most important — permanently removed a small slice of the forest from future scientific research.

The report said the drilling didn't appear to have a substantial effect on groundwater quality. The scientists did not monitor the forest's most sensitive ecosystems, including extensive caves, and did not evaluate the operation's impact on wildlife. The authors also did not test for any of the chemicals added to drilling and hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The report, and the well in question, hints at a larger story of the tensions that have emerged as drilling expands across federal lands in the eastern United States.

Controversy over Meaning and Timing of Oil Pipeline Report

TransCanada says their proposed pipeline could free the U.S. of Middle Eastern oil imports. Opponents say DOE's report shows the pipeline is not needed

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 4, 2011

WASHINGTON—Allowing a Canadian company to construct a third oil sands pipeline through the nation's heartland could eventually eliminate U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil, while having little impact on global emissions of heat-trapping gases.

That's how oil pipeline giant interprets a new report focused on its controversial Keystone XL pipeline project.

Economists and environmental advocates reviewing the same report beg to differ with those sweeping conclusions.

At issue is a recently released U.S. Department of Energy study called "," which has sparked further debate over the long-running pipeline controversy, as Canada's prime minister visits the White House today and protesters take up positions outside.

Obama Taps Bingaman to Build Bipartisan Consensus for Clean Energy Standard

Bingaman's Oval Office meeting sends a signal that Obama is counting on the senator's savvy to pass a measure that both business and enviros can support

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 3, 2011

WASHINGTON—When describing Sen. Jeff Bingaman, observers on Capitol Hill are quick to utter such accolades as considerate, thoughtful and practical.

The lanky and cerebral New Mexico Democrat's pragmatism is now under the political microscope of the nation's capital as he warms up to the idea of crafting a clean energy standard that the business world can embrace and the green movement won't shun.

Plus, with a GOP-heavy 112th Congress, the chairman of the knows he has to engage in new math. With 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans serving on his own rearranged committee, he first has to win a majority there before any measure can advance to a Senate where the Democratic caucus has just a 53 to 47 edge.

Bingaman's Wednesday afternoon meeting in the Oval Office sends a signal that President Obama is counting on the senator's savvy.

Smart Grid Acquisitions by ABB, GE, Siemens Point to Coming $20 Billion Boom

Nearly 75% of the smart grid money will come from utilities updating their grids, while industrial giants work to secure their piece of the pie

By Maria Gallucci

Feb 3, 2011

No one doubts that any big renewables push — like President Obama's call to get 80 percent of U.S. power from cleaner sources by 2035 — will demand an upgrade of the nation's electrical systems to digital "smart" grids. But is it happening?

New research by suggests that the answer is yes. The firm predicts a $20 billion spending surge in smart technologies in the next ten years, led by electric utilities and global grid giants like ABB, who are ready to cash in on the power revolution.

The finds that the new digital grid networks will pump out 900 percent more data to electric utility companies by 2020, as they install millions of smart meters, the in-home devices that report energy usage.

Forests Are More than Sinks that Inhale Carbon, Study Warns

Well-meaning efforts to save the world's trees ignore forests' contributions to agriculture, energy, medicine and the livelihoods of local people

By Catherine M. Cooney

Feb 2, 2011

With their ability to soak up heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere, forests are front and center in international discussions about slowing climate change. But a growing chorus of researchers says the planet's trees have plenty more to offer the world beyond acting as sinks that inhale carbon.

This point was borne out by a new report presented in New York this week during the (UNFF).

Discussions at the meeting will feed into UN talks on the formal forestry agreement taking shape, known as REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, said Jeremy Rayner, a professor at the .

"Forest governance, although it covers most of the issues, is very complex and badly coordinated," Rayner told SolveClimate News. "And as a result, it is difficult to find a specific instrument that is forest-related, instead of forest-focused."

By "forest-focused," Rayner is referring to international pacts that narrowly focus on forests as carbon sinks. Most of the well-meaning efforts intended to protect forests, including the and the global boycotts of tropical timber, ignore forests' contributions to agriculture, energy, medicine, and the livelihoods of millions of indigenous individuals, Rayner said.

In the Wake of Severe Floods in Australia, Political Irony and Fresh Contention

Australia's record flooding creates a space for climate change scientists and skeptics to fight it out afresh

By David Wilson

Feb 2, 2011

The flood-ravaged Australian state of Queensland faces a rebuilding task of "post-war proportions," with swathes of it still underwater. But floating on the surface of the catastrophe is a refreshed debate about climate science and a government response that some say is nothing short of ironic.

Observers note that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has decided to divert climate-mitigation money to pay for the damage, and the country's clean energy industry is reeling from the blow to its potential finances.

State Premier Anna Bligh has described the flooding as the worst natural disaster in the state's history. Australia's farming and mining sectors were left in disarray. The crisis looks set to cost the nation about $30 billion, to be covered by a "flood tax."

Scientists say that man-made global warming is one likely cause of the extreme weather that pounded the country. Given that, is there any sign that climate-skeptical politicians and pundits may be yielding even a bit on the issue?

China Wins Approval for Giant Dam Project in World Heritage Site

Hydroelectric power company Huadian will build a cascade of 13 dams, similar to the Three Gorges Dam, in the "Grand Canyon of the Orient"

Jonathan Watts,

Feb 1, 2011

China's dam builders will press ahead with controversial plans to build a cascade of hydropower plants in one of the country's most spectacular canyons, , in an apparent reversal for prime minister Wen Jiabao.

The move to harness the power of the pristine Nu river – better known outside of China as the Salween – overturns a suspension ordered by the premier in 2004 on environmental grounds and reconfirmed in 2009.

Back then, conservation groups hailed the reprieve as a rare victory against Big Hydro in an area of southwest Yunnan province that is of global importance for biodiversity.

Controversy over Burning Trash for Power, and Carbon Credits, in India

A proposal for a waste-to-energy plant in New Delhi has opponents up in the arms over pollution, but developers insist it will be cleaner-burning

By Ranjit Devraj

Feb 1, 2011

NEW DELHI—India is going full-steam ahead with plans to build a type of power plant that converts garbage to power, despite fears by some that it could amount to a pollution disaster in a country without strong air quality regulations.

Construction of cleaner-burning waste-to-energy facilities is gathering pace across Europe. But the situation in India is different, opponents say.